Lexington, KY – Russ Smith led a relentless attack by totaling 23 points with eight steals, and top-seeded Louisville left no doubt in a 79-48 trouncing of 16th-seeded North Carolina A&T in second round play of the NCAA Tournament at Rupp Arena.
Fresh off winning the Big East Tournament title game in convincing fashion, the Cardinals (30-5) made their presence felt on both sides of the ball by complementing 27 forced turnovers with a 57.4 shooting percentage. They will take on Colorado State in Saturday's third round matchup.
"We all know what defense can do. It got us to the Final Four last year," said Smith. "So we just stay solid and just keeping playing our defense, hopefully good things can happen."
Smith had 14 of his points early in the second half to turn the contest into a full-fledged blowout and finished 10-for-16 shooting from the floor. Peyton Siva put forth an all-around performance of six points, eight assists and four steals, while Wayne Blackshear scored 12 in the victory.
The Aggies' (20-17) wild late season run came to an abrupt halt on Thursday, two days after collecting their fifth straight win and first ever NCAA Tournament victory by downing Liberty in the opening round.
Bruce Beckford was the only player in double-figures for N.C. A&T, scoring 12 points. Lamont Middleton followed with nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in defeat.
"Things were loud, but it didn't really change what we did," said Beckford. "We just didn't execute. We just -- their press caused turnovers and that's how they won the game.
North Carolina A&T's only field goal through the first 10 minutes occurred on the team's first possession, and during the stretch it committed seven turnovers to help thrust Louisville to a 25-8 lead.
Smith got to the basket three times during the Cardinals' 19-4 run and Blackshear's triple capped the surge to create a 17-point margin.
N.C. A&T's 14 giveaways in the first half resulted in 16 points for the Cardinals, with Smith's steal resulting in a dunk for Montrezl Harrell and a 38-17 cushion with 5:35 left until halftime.
A short 5-0 spurt late in the first half got the Aggies' differential down to 14 points, but Smith and Siva went on a torrent run as the duo combined for 18 of the Cardinals' first 21 points out of the break to send Louisville on its way to an 11th straight win.
A 47-31 halftime lead was nearly doubled after Smith followed consecutive driving scores from Siva with a 3-pointer, and his ensuing fastbreak slam put an exclamation point on the 67-37 blowout.
The Aggies didn't provide much resistance over the last 11 1/2 minutes, trailing by as many as 35 points before the final buzzer.
The Cardinals dominated inside the paint by a 44-16 count ... Thursday's matchup was just the second meeting between the two schools ... The Aggies were outrebounded, 31-20 ... Reverend Jesse Jackson, an N.C. A&T graduate, was in attendance for the contest.